NIU volleyball extends winning streak to five matches

By Mike Romor

NIU volleyball extended its winning streak to five matches after going perfect this weekend on the road against a pair of MAC East foes, Akron and Buffalo.

The Huskies (17-5, 6-2 MAC) were pushed to their limits Friday against Akron (4-17, 1-7), going the distance in a five-setter. NIU came out on top 25-23, 15-25, 25-12, 27-29, 15-12.

“[Akron] did some things against us that we just weren’t able to adjust to quick enough,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “When we did do those things, we played pretty well. We won a couple sets pretty easily. It was a good challenge for us and we were very happy to come out of it in a positive way.”

Sophomore Lauren Wicinski led the Huskies in both kills and digs with 25 and 13. Sarah Angelos largely contributed, tying her career-high with 15 kills while hitting .583.

Junior Mary Kurisch helped pace the NIU offense, posting a .471 hitting percentage on 17 kills with only one error. Her 21-point performance set a new career-high.

NIU had three players record double-digit digs. Aside from Wicinski’s 13, Allison McGlaughlin posted 10 digs to reach a double-double, while libero Amber Walker had 11.

As a team, NIU hit .301 compared to Akron’s .263. The Huskies also recorded 74 assists on a season-high 80 kills, with Kristin Hoffman posting 64 assists. Akron only netted 59 kills in the match, but it stuck around mainly in part to strong defense.

“The MAC East and Akron are really good defensively with big blocks and we let that surprise us sometimes,” Kurisch said. “Usually we can pick it up and cover with our hitter setters. We were ready for it.”

Saturday’s match at Buffalo proved to be less of a challenge for NIU as it swept the Bulls (9-13, 2-6) 25-14, 25-14, 30-28.

“We knew that we didn’t play as well as we needed to [against Akron] and that we needed to go out there and be very aggressive and focused,” Gooden said. “I know we did that in the first two sets well when we won 25-14.”

Wicinski once again led the team offensively. Not only was she the only player to reach double-digit kills in the match, but she also set a career-high with seven aces, four of which came consecutively to help put the second set out of reach.

The Huskies outhit Buffalo .277 to .069, largely due to solid team defense. Five Huskies had at least five digs, while Justine Schepler led the squad with 10.

Hoffman once again ran NIU’s offense to near-perfection, recording 33 assists on 34 attempts while the team notched 38 kills.

“We definitely picked up our blocking and our sets in that match,” Kurisch said. “Our serving and passing was a lot better than it was the night before.”

NIU will have a few days of rest before this weekend’s homestand against Kent State and Ohio.